Irv Muchnick on Gina Carano’s movie debut
by Irvin Muchnick
My current girlfriend Gina Carano came along at an opportune moment in my life. When I attended my first mixed martial arts show – the 2009 Strikeforce event in San Jose in which Carano lost to Cris Cyborg – I had just dumped my old girlfriend, Sandra Bullock, for making The Blind Side. I don’t remember how much of all this I’ve explained to you before.
After the Cyborg fight, Carano was tapped by director Steven Soderbergh to star in the just-released secret-agent thriller Haywire. Reviewing her big-screen debut for this readership breaks down into two elements: evaluating it as a movie-movie and evaluating it as a Gina-movie.
As a movie-movie, I’m sorry to say that Roger Ebert, Mick LaSalle, and other big-name critics who have given Haywire raves are seriously grading on the curve. The script writers hardly broke a sweat crafting this vehicle, and for anyone not (understandably) smitten on principle by my beauteous Gina, the result is nothing more than serviceable trash. I think Haywire’s tepid opening weekend box office is directly attributable to the contrast between Carano’s monotone-driven, motive-free generic killing machine, and the Oscar-worthy Rooney Mara’s richly dark and complex Lisbeth in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Needless to add, it is not Carano’s fault that the makers of Haywire had so little faith in character development or in challenging the range of whatever acting talent we’ll all soon discover she has. In the end, the film will do well enough financially – cute chicks delivering kicks have a good international shelf life – and she will get more and better roles. A star was born. So to those of you who might be hoping she will climb back into the octagon to avenge the single blemish on her record administered by Cyborg (whose own entire career is now tainted by her recent steroid bust), I say forget about it.
Now for the Gina-movie part of the review – or, if you prefer, the combat sports fan’s perspective. Gina looks fine either in a dress or in jeans, with her brunette locks either up or down. She looks fine smirking contemptibly at Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, or the other hapless males complicating her inscrutable existence. She looks fine kissing that lucky stiff Channing Tatum. She … looks … fine. If you’re wondering whether she does anything more salacious than kiss, in a single and typically obscurantist scene, the answer is naw; the clothes stay on.
Then there are the fight scenes. In my movie-going experience, there have been two gold standards. One was set by Roddy Piper with his festival of suplexes in John Carpenter’s They Live. (Have you ever tried that move in a street fight?)
The other was the Bruce Lee biopic, Dragon. Jason Scott Lee, playing Bruce Lee, is working as a dishwasher at a restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown when he has to defend the honor of a young woman who is being harassed, and a brawl ensues among the kitchen help. It spills out into the alley behind the restaurant and lasts, it seems, five minutes or more, with antagonists leaping across rooftops, hanging from fire escapes, and inflicting grave damage to multiple body parts. At the conclusion, as the Dragon triumphs, the old crone who owns the restaurant sticks her head out and says all right, everyone knock it off, get back to work. (I hadn’t seen better timing since Buddy Rogers raced out to attend to his charge Superfly Snuka at the Agricultural Hall in Allentown – but somehow not until Ray Stevens had finished piledriving Snuka onto the concrete floor.)
Haywire delivers with some state-of-the-art Gina fight choreography, including a textbook armbar on the self-same Tatum and a triangle choke on another betrayer. Do try these at home, by all means.